- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A witness in a federal police corruption trial on Thursday described the violent tactics a Philadelphia drug squad allegedly used to work big cases that earned its officers convictions and acclaim.

Jason Kennedy said he mistook one officer for an armed robber when the burly, sledgehammer-wielding undercover smashed a windowpane to gain entrance to his apartment floor in 2010.

Kennedy said he wrestled with then-Officer Michael Spicer before he was in handcuffs with a loose tooth and bruised skull. He said he was then dangled over his third-floor balcony while police rounded up $210,000 - $80,000 more than they listed on their police report.

Kennedy’s testimony came in the racketeering trial of Spicer and five other narcotics officers accused of stealing money and drugs from their targets and beating them at times to get information.

Kennedy, sounding dazed, said he had underestimated the risks of taking over his friend’s marijuana business - even if the gig paid more than his day job making music for video games.

“Being hung over a balcony isn’t one of the risks that one takes into consideration,” he testified.

Prosecutors have a challenging case ahead given that many of their 20 accusers are criminals. The most-anticipated witness is a former squad member who says the unit routinely skimmed money and drugs while working the streets.

Disgraced officer Jeffrey Walker has pleaded guilty and is set to testify against his longtime colleagues. Defense lawyers call him “dirty” and “disreputable.”

Marijuana dealer Ian Bates spoke for many of the accusers when he explained Thursday why he never filed a police complaint over the $63,000 he said went missing from his home after a 2010 raid.

“My lawyer said there was no point, because it was my word against theirs,” said Bates, 38, who made his living selling marijuana for five years and now, after two arrests, waits tables.

The police paperwork in his case lists $65,000 in seized cash. However, Bates insists he had $86,000 in a seized silver box to make a drug buy later that week. And he said there was $42,000 more in his guitar case and on a nightstand.

On cross-examination, though, he acknowledged that he had been smoking marijuana “all day” before police arrived at 3 p.m. He has smoked regularly since he was about 13, he said. Asked if his heavy use might affect his memory, he said he didn’t know.

“I’m not a doctor,” Bates said.

Lead defendant Thomas Liciardello, Spicer, Walker and co-defendants Brian Reynolds and Perry Betts were involved in the raid of Bates’ home.

Liciardello and others are also accused of searching the home of jailed suspect Michael Lau by threatening his mother with eviction. His mother and lawyer were called to the stand Thursday to bolster the admitted drug dealer’s testimony earlier in the day.

“He told me that after he was arrested, and while in custody, police went back to his house and burglarized it, and took a large sum of cash,” lawyer Gabriel Levin confirmed.

Neither Levin nor Lau raised the issue at the time, but complaints started to roll in about the drug squad officers, some in the form of civil rights lawsuits. Ultimately, both federal and city prosecutors stopped accepting the drug unit’s cases. And scores of convictions have been overturned.

The civil lawsuits are on hold amid the officers’ criminal case. The other defendants are Linwood Norman and John Speiser. The trial resumes Tuesday and is expected to last about two months.

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